For the first time Freud publicly expounds his concept of an 'Oedipus complex' at the root of all neurotic disturbance in adult life. The early sexual feelings for parents which he claimed to have discovered in most or all of his patients were at first seen as repressed memories of actual abuse. Here Freud turns that 'seduction theory' on its head, arguing that the child projects its sexual fantasies onto the world rather than receiving them from it. He casts 5th century BC playwright Sophocles as anticipating his own work, reading his drama Oedipus the King as a direct representation of those fantasies brought to fruition. Oedipus' supposed 'tragedy' is in fact a wish-fulfilment, leaving him guiltless as fate conspires to grant him those dark desires Freud ascribes to each member of the audience.
The legend provided him with personal as well as professional inspiration: Freud seems to have identified with that earlier, triumphant Oedipus who, by solving the monstrous Sphinx's riddle, saved the people of Thebes and became their king. Years later his disciples presented him with a bronze medallion depicting the episode, engraved with the Greek quotation: "Who divined the famous riddle and was a man most mighty".
Online edition of Sophocles' 'Oedipus the King', as translated by Gilbert Murray, (1911)
Online collection of myth and literature regarding the Sphinx and Oedipus at Theoi.com
Oedipus Rex by Tom Lehrer